With this post, we continue our coverage of Lois Lane‘s forays into Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, courtesy of editor E. Nelson Bridwell, scripter Robert Kanigher, penciller Werner Roth, (primary) inker Vince Colletta, and uncredited Superman/Clark Kent head-finisher Murphy Anderson. As you may recall, the intermittent usage of Kirby’s concepts and characters in the title had begun in #111, then resumed in #115 before continuing into #116.
Before we jump right on into the pages of November, 1971’s Lois Lane #118, however, we’re going to back up a few months to take another quick look at a comic that came out that June, Superman #241. If you’re a regular reader, you may renumber that that issue featured the penultimate chapter of the multi-part “Sand Superman saga”, written by Denny O’Neil, illustrated by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, and edited by Julius Schwartz. Tucked inside that story was the enigmatic panel shown below, which appeared in the middle of a scene that found Superman, along with guest star Wonder Woman and her mentor I-Ching, meeting together in the penthouse apartment of Metropolis media mogul Morgan Edge — Supes’ boss in his guise of Clark Kent, as well as a secret servant of Darkseid, lord of Apokolips (although that last fact wasn’t particularly relevant to the Superman storyline):
O’Neil’s script made it clear that Edge himself wasn’t home at the time Superman and company were using his place — so who, indeed, was this silhouetted figure watching from behind a two-way mirror?
Readers’ next glimpse of #241’s “mystery man” would come three issues later, in Superman #244, which was published in September. In this story (produced by the same creative team as had crafted the earlier tale), Superman came to Edge to ask for help in a crisis — allowing for yet another scene set in the private home of the Galaxy Broadcasting System’s bossman:
Incidentally, your humble blogger wasn’t one of the readers who caught this appearance of the Man Behind the Mirror, as #242 turned out to be the last issue of Superman that I would buy for a while; in fact, I didn’t even know this scene existed prior to beginning my research for this blog post. On the other hand, I did buy “the November issue of Lois Lane” which the editorial note in the last panel above promised would provide “a better look at this mystery man“; I even blogged about it here a couple of months ago. Perhaps you’ll remember this scene, from the comic’s opening pages:
So here’s Morgan Edge himself, looking into what we can assume is the same two-way mirror behind which is imprisoned our “mystery man”. He turns at the sound of the doorbell, but his reflection doesn’t… say, you don’t think…?
Superman editor Schwartz having evidently now turned this subplot over to his cohort Bridwell (whose idea it may have been in the first place), the next clue appeared in the very next issue of Lois Lane, #117. In the following scene, the irascible Edge has just ordered reporters Clark Kent and Lois Lane to get out into the city and find him some news worth printing/broadcasting:
This was another hint I missed, as I was only picking up issues of Lois Lane that clearly had something to do with the goings-on in Kirby’s Fourth World titles, and this one didn’t register to me as such. But, luckily, when LL #118 came out a month later, I must have flipped through enough pages at the spinner rack to ascertain that that one met my criteria, and thus put down my twenty-five cents to take it home.
And so I was present for the ultimate solution to the months-spanning mystery — the first piece of which was revealed on the comic’s very first page:
The Flying Jesters turn out to be members of the criminal cartel called the 100; they attempt to abduct Lois right there in the park, but, just as you’d expect, her big blue boyfriend shows up in time to foil their plans:
The preceding sequence has literally nothing to do with the rest of the story — but it’s given scripter Kanigher the opportunity to show Superman in action early on, and also eaten up about a third of the tale’s page count, so it’s likely accomplished its aims.
Let’s take a pause here to note, for anyone who’s come in late, that Morgan Edge was a creation of writer/artist Jack Kirby, who introduced the GBS prez as the new owner of the Daily Planet in his first new DC comic book published following his exit from Marvel, Jimmy Olsen #133 (Oct., 1970). That same issue revealed that Edge wasn’t just a “smiling cobra” of the corporate world, but was in fact associated with the ruthless criminal organization Inter-Gang; then, a couple of months later, JO #134 concluded with a scene of Edge reporting in to his and Inter-Gang’s ultimate master, Darkseid (the first appearance of that character).
Unlike most of the new characters and concepts that came pouring out of Kirby in his first few issues of Jimmy Olsen, Morgan Edge was adopted almost immediately by Kirby’s fellow editors of DC’s “Superman family” comics, quickly becoming a regular fixture in Superman, Action, and so on. This may have been due in part to expedience — if Edge was the boss of Clark Kent and company in one title, he logically had to be their boss in all of them — but the editors and writers of those books also seemed to recognize the usefulness of the abrasive and conniving Edge as a dramatic foil, allowing for the injection of conflict into the previously super-sunny workplace environment of the Planet.
Over time, however, someone at DC seems to have realized that whatever Kirby had planned for Edge in Jimmy Olsen might ultimately take him off the board as a viable supporting character for the other Superman comics; thus, the idea of two “Morgan Edges” was born. Though it’s unlikely that Kirby came up with the idea himself, or even felt particularly invested in it — it’s never alluded to in any way in his Jimmy Olsen stories — he does appear to have at least participated in working out the details. As Lois Lane editor Bridwell would later explain in the letters column of LL #122: “Kirby was in on the double-Edge bit from the first. In fact, he’s the one who suggested that the fake Edge came from the Evil Factory.”
Superman and Lois’ separate search efforts soon bring them together (naturally), as the reporter narrowly avoids a head-on collision with a recklessly speeding car supposedly driven by “poor Mr. Edge”. A little later, Supes puts out a fire in “an abandoned slum street”, then saves Lois from being crushed by falling red-hot bricks from the burning building. The only connection this latter incident seems to have to the Edge plotline is that Lois and Superman find another “Help me” message scrawled on a nearby wall; but, once again, we’ve had an action scene where the Man of Steel rescues his beloved, plus we’ve used up another page or two, so I guess it’s all good.
I realize that Superman isn’t supposed to be the World’s Greatest Detective or anything like that, but considering how deeply he’s been shown to be involved in the U.S. government’s secret D.N.A. Project, shouldn’t the possibility of cloning at least cross his mind? Maybe if the Man of Tomorrow spent a little less time and effort memorizing people’s fingerprints and voice-prints, and counting their skin pores (!), he’d have a bit more gray matter left over for the basics. Forest, trees, etc..
In 1971, I finished this 16-pager feeling impressed by the basic notion of Edge’s clone, which at the time seemed like a bigger development in the overall Fourth World saga than it actually was, but also distressed by Superman’s failure to help the real Morgan Edge escape and expose his Darkseid-serving double. This made for two Lois Lane stories in a row that I’d read where the Metropolis Marvel hadn’t really gotten the job done (the last time was when he’d left the evil Apokoliptican Desaad’s Happyland torture park operating at the end of LL #116’s “Hall of 1000 Mirrors”) — and I didn’t think it was a good look for him. I was mollified, but only somewhat, by the fact that “Real-Edge” had managed to elude his captors on his own; that inconclusive ending left me impatient to read the next episode to see if Superman would make a better showing that time.
Luckily for you, faithful reader, we’re going to go ahead and take a look at LL #119 in this very post, so you won’t need to wait a month like my fourteen-year-old self did. Though you’re still going to have to wait a few minutes, since we still have a couple of backup features in LL #118 left to cover, beginning with a very quick look at…
It’s another remarkably-feminist-for-its-time adventure of Dr. Pat — whose “first love” those of us familiar with her last reprinted exploit in LL #116 already know is… medicine!
As with that earlier story, this reprint’s splash page provides data regarding its original publication in Sensation Comics and also credits the art as being by Carmine Infantino and Frank Giacoia. The writer is not credited here, though the Grand Comics Database attributes the script to Robert Kanigher; however, as noted by blog reader JoshuaRascal in his comment on LL #116, some of Kanigher’s Sensation credits have been called into question in recent years. For that matter, the GCD itself lists Art Peddy and Joe Giella, rather than Infantino and Giacoia, as the artists for this story in its entry for the strip’s original appearance; so, maybe all of these credits should be taken with a grain of salt.
Moving on, we have the latest installment of “Rose and the Thorn”. Kanigher continues as the feature’s writer; but while Dick Giordano remains as inker, the pencilling is now being handled by a relative newcomer, Rich Buckler.
Immediately after making this find, Rose and Danny are attacked by a blue shark! Which Danny promptly stabs to death with his knife! Wotta guy — and wotta piece of narrative contrivance by Bob Kanigher, still keen to pad out the page count of his stories with meaningless action sequences.
After returning to shore, Rose heads off to her vacation rental, Moor House, where she chats with her friend Wanda about what to wear to the local community’s upcoming costume ball. Later, well after nightfall, Rose’s alternate personality Thorn takes over to investigate a ghostly-looking sailing ship that’s appeared out on the waves. A skirmish between our heroine and some similarly ghostly-looking (but actually very solid) pirates proves inconclusive, but then…
The next night, at the costume ball, the Thorn shows up — but no, it’s only Wanda…
I guess we’re supposed to assume that the Inter-Gang “pirates” were responsible for planting the treasure chest with the skeletal hand and warning inside, since no other explanation is given (and the next issue finds both Rose and Danny back in Metropolis), but I’ll be damned if I can think of any rationale for them to have gone to the trouble to do such a thing. This is a pretty lousy story, frankly, with virtually nothing to recommend it beyond the nice artwork by the Buckler-Giordano team.
And now we’ll jump ahead to “on or about Dec. 28th” to check out Lois Lane #119. As promised, the lead story does continue the Morgan Edge clone storyline — although you wouldn’t be able to tell that either from the book’s cover or from its first few pages, all of which are concerned with Lois’ sister Lucy, and the penchant for dangerous thrill-seeking that she’s acquired since breaking up with Jimmy Olsen..
Lucy, of course, is unfazed by her nearly fatal accident, leaving it to a tearful Lois to buck up and announce her sister’s victory live on air.
“Clone-Edge” recalls his origins, along with the other events we saw last issue, before the story shifts to present a flashback to events we haven’t already seen:
Yes, it’s the Outsiders, some of the very first characters introduced by Jack Kirby in Jimmy Olsen — although, outside of a glancing mention in JO $142’s “Strange Stories of the D.N.A. Project” 2-page backup feature, they hadn’t been seen since JO #137.
While Lois weeps at her desk, her boss tries to work out where his other self might be hiding: “,,,in crowds? There’s safety in numbers. But not in an ordinary crowd of strangers who wouldn’t lift a finger to save me.”
We next see Lois and Lucy on a fishing boat at sea, taking pix of the crew — just long enough for the boat to be almost capsized by a whale, before the latter is hauled safely back down into the deeps by Superman. It’s a meaningless scene, but it takes up a page and allows Kanigher to make his quota of “Supes rescues Lois” scenes for the issue.
Clone-Edge first visits the Evil Factory, where he cajoles Simyan and Mokkari into fabricating “a dozen human bodies, but not living” for him. Sure thing, they say, figuring he’s acting on Darkseid’s orders…
I’m not sure where Jack Kirby might have gone with the Outsiders in Jimmy Olsen — he definitely seems to have back-burnered them by late 1971, if not written them off entirely — but I have a hard time imagining that he would have ever had them put away their wheels, start up a farming commune, and become Jesus People. (I realize that I’m making an inference with that latter point, but I believe that it’s a valid one, given when this story came out.) Of course, being the earnest young Christian I was in 1971, I thought it was all pretty cool at the time
Incidentally, Real-Edge is never expressly pointed out among the members of his new community, but as a young reader I assumed he was supposed to be the bearded guy in the yellow-green shirt, as seen hugging Yango in the third panel of page 13. I’m less certain of that identification now, although it still seems a solid possibility.
Yango quite literally turns the other cheek to Iron Mask on page 14 — though it’s an Old Testament passage Kanigher uses to underscore the point in the next panel following, rather than a verse from the Gospels of Matthew or Luke:
It’s certainly quite fortunate that Superman shows up right when he does — as well as that the local sheriff has a good eye for “fake” human bodies. Otherwise, it seems it might have been curtains for those “hippie maniacs”.
The Lucy Lane plotline went on for a couple more issues — she was ultimately believed to have been murdered, although that turned out to be untrue — but I really can’t tell you anything about it you can’t look up for yourself online, as #119 turned out to be the last issue of Lois Lane I’d ever buy. None of the subsequent issues featured the Morgan Edge clone in any substantial manner, nor did they deal with any other Fourth World concepts; and since those were the only reasons I was hanging around, I was out of there.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Edge clone storyline was never resolved; it was, and appropriately enough, in Jimmy Olsen — though in an issue of Jimmy Olsen produced after Jack Kirby had already left the book. Actually, by that time, the entire Fourth World enterprise was winding down, making the dispensation of the “extra” Morgan Edge more a matter of tying up loose ends than it was anything else… but for more about that, you’ll have to come back and see us next June.